Community Media/Production Skills
This training module was built and implemented by Maraa as a part of the Flagship Project for Setting up Community Radio in India, supported by International Program for Development of Communication (IPDC), which is a major UN Forum, supported by member countries to promote pluralism and diversity of media in Third World Countries. The radio stations where this module was implemented in Namma Dhwani (in Budikote village, Kolar District, Karnataka), Radio Bundelkhand (Orchha, Madhya Pradesh), Radio Vikalp (Garhwa Village, Meral Block, Jharkhand), and Kumaun Vani (Supi Village, Mukteshwar District, Uttarakhand)
- 1 Set up
- 2 Hardware Set up
- 3 Software Set up
- 4 Capacity Building
Once you have confirmed the need for a CRS, and found that it is feasible in terms of participation, you need to look inwards, and firstly identify a feasible location for community radio. This means that the site should be available for at least five years without legal complications; it should be accessible to all sections of the community and it should be relatively quiet. Once this is done, find the GPS coordinates of that site, and then juxtapose it with elevation data to find the possible signal strength. If it looks good, then you should start consolidating hardware.
Hardware Set up
You need two components to make a community radio set up work:
In Production, you will need the following components:
- Acoustics for your studio
- Mixing Console
- Hybrid Unit
- Audio workstation with sound card
- Flash recorders
- Monitoring speakers
- Cables and connectors
In Transmission, you will need the following components:
- FM Transmitter (50 Watts)
- Feeder Cable (Foam Feed) of approximately 50 meters
Software Set up
For community radio, we would recommend that you use Free and Open Source software which is now available for both beginners and for sophisticated users. Ubuntu Studio is a good option for an Operating System, while you could start Audacity for recording and editing.
As for your computer, the following configuration should be sufficient:
- 80 GB Hard drive capacity
- 1 GB RAM
- DVD ROM (preferably DVD writer)
- An external sound card (not critical but aim towards having one)
Once you have a studio set up, then you should start identifying willing community members who are interested in engaging with the radio station; as producers, voice artistes, singers, etc. These community members need to be trained in production skills, rules and regulations as per policy, do's and dont's of the radio station etc. Further, we would advise not to put too much emphasis on what kind of programs they should be making. Let the community decide what is relevant and what is not. Only if there is a fragrant violation of the code of conduct, should you intervene. However, you should facilitate a training program where formats of radio are introduced where they are given some frameworks to work with. However, they could be told or even encouraged to frequently break the rules and produce some innovative and original formats.
The following is a draft module on production skills for those interesting in producing programs for community radio
To help participants arrive at a technical and practical understanding of production skills related to community radio
The organizational strategy to which this workshop will contribute to is community radio being used as a strategic tool to deepen engagement with communities with which the NGO is working presently, and to bring about greater participation from people in the "development" process.
- Review of existing technology installed in the radio studio
- Review of some examples of community radio stations, and some of the production techniques used
- Producing sample radio clips using various formats
- Assessment and next steps
The kind of people who will participate in this kind of a workshope are those who will be engaged with the community radio at a hands on level. These are people who will have the technical skills needed to produce and more importantly edit programs in the community radio station. They will be motivators for the community to come and talk on their radio, while they themselves can edit and mix the programs, and subsequently broadcast these programs on air.
This particular workshop will be of two full days in duration, with a variety of presentations, exercises and discussions. It could be shortened or lengthened depending on circumstances, but given a choice, two days would be ideal.
Digital audio is now easy to work with considering the low costs of equipment. The most popular form of digital audio is mp3, although other forms like wav, wma, ogg etc are used as well. Recorded sound can be converted to mp3 as well, which compresses the sound, facilitating storage for large amounts of audio. For studio based recording, you can record in Audacity, although downloading LAME encoder is advised. The .dll file of LAME should be copied into the Audacity folder. For recording in the field, you can purchase low cost field recorders, which record, in wav or mp3 and can be transferred to the PC via USB cable. For more details on digital audio, click the link below:
Formats for Radio
The popular formats for radio are:
- Jingle- Lasts about 30 seconds to a minute, summarizing the identity of a station, or an advertisement or a social message
- Report- Talks about hard facts, lasts anywhere between 5 minutes to 15 minutes
- Feature- Can address soft stories, human interest stories and are slightly longer than reports
- News- Summarizes local events
- Documentary- Longer radio format, which usually explores an issue in great detail, with in-depth analysis etc
- Drama- Can be used imaginatively, needs actors, and needs a well written script and coordination amongst actors. This can be episodic as well.
- Interview- Involves two people, one asking questions and the other answering questions.
- Panel Discussion- One person coordinates and facilitates a discussion between two or more people who usually differ in their opinions
- Debate- One person facilitates a discussion between two people who have opinions, in support and against a given issue
- Phone in program- One or two hosts sitting at the studio can invite phone calls from the community members, usually on a single issue.
When people come to the studio to make programs, make sure they have space and time to practice what they want to say. Also ensure they have some paper and pen so they can write down pointers and so on. The studio team can inform them about five minutes in advance so they can get prepared for their program. First check their level to see if it sounds good, or if there are pop sounds, or if two people are sharing a microphone, then ensure that both voices sound okay. The last thing you need to do is make sure that you guide the people constantly through the program, give directions to come closer to the microphone, or move further away etc. If it is a live studio based program, make sure you explain the rules and regulations of the studio before they go live. This can avoid a lot of trouble later! Also, never intimidate the community by putting up prohibitive signs like Silence, or forbidding rules and regulations. Always make the community feel welcome, and that it is their space. This way, they will feel like coming back to make more programs.
Field based production
Using a field based recorder, you can record voices of people outside the studio. Generally, you should keep some things in mind like standing with you back against the wind, guarding against pop sounds and pausing the recording while traffic passes you by. This is the preferred mode for programs like vox-pops. In the case of an interview, make an appointment with the interviewee in advance and be on time for the interview. Inform the interviewer about the questions you are going to ask so he or she can mentally prepare for the interview. This will save time and effort on editing later! Also, make sure you note down all your questions before going to the interview. Although you may not stick to the exact questions, they will help provide a broad framework. When you are the spot for an interview, find a quiet spot, make sure mobile phones are switched off (not silent mode), and introduce yourself to the interviewer, and explain why you want to do the interview and how it will help the radio station and the listeners. It always helps to informally chit chat with the interviewee for five to ten minutes before the interview begins so they are relaxed when the actual interview begins. Always ensure that the interviewer knows what this interview is going to be used for, and where and when it will be broadcast. This means, you should take the community's consent before using the recording. Also, please credit the community when you use their voices, unless of course you are making a program on a sensitive issue and they prefer anonymity.
While meeting new people, it always helps to have a badge or some kind of identification which proves that you are in fact a reporter for the community radio station, especially when you want to speak to government officials, bureaucrats etc
Once the program is recorded, transfer it into the computer, through programs like Audacity, and cut out the unnecessary parts. Then add introductions and conclusions if necessary. Also add things like effects, music underlays etc depending on the format of the program.
Learn more about using Audacity here
We talk to the participants about using the digital audio, to broadcast it to listeners. We give them a short talk on how the sound when first spoken gets recorded on to a microphone, which is then fed into a mixing console, and then gets treated, and gets fed into a computer. We then edit this sound on the computer using software, and then send the sound from the computer in to a transmitter. This transmitter, then sends this sound signal (by now converted into an electromagnetic signal) to an antenna which sends it out in to the air. Then depending on strength of transmitter, measured in Watts, and height of antenna measured in meters, determines how far your radio signal reaches. Your radio set, decodes the radio signal back in to sound which then comes out through your radio speaker. Then we give them an even shorter talk about FM radio which basically modulates the frequency of the radio wave. So for different speeds of frequency being modulated, there is a value allocated. So Mega Hertz is your frequency value multiplied by 106.
We divide the participants into groups and give each group a field recorder. Then we take one field recorder and we show each component/button and ask the participants to identify that part on their field recorder. We then ask the participants to try and record something, like a song, or an interview, or go into the village, and do a vox-pop recording and so on. We give the participants about half an hour to do this exercise. So after they record this, we take the participants (each group) into the studio. We show them how the file is transferred from the the recorder to the computer, and then we show them how to create folders and how to save it, including naming your recorded file accurately.
Once they all have figured out how to transfer files from the field recorder to the computer in the studio, we move on to studio recording.
We show them how the path of sound is from the microphone to the computer. While talking about the microphone, we give them tips like how much of a distance to keep from the mic, avoiding the pop sound, where to use the dynamic and where to use the condenser microphone. We then explain the different and critical parts of a mixing console and demonstrate how working the faders can actually control the volume from the radio artiste/talent. We also tell them difference between individual faders and master volume fader. We also show the participants about volume peaking, and how to read the levels on the mixing console. After this, we show them how the sound on the microphone and then to the mixer, can be recorded on to the computer using Audacity. So we give them a brief demonstration of how the cabling is done so how the mixing console and the microphones are connected. Then how the mixer and the computer are connected, and how studio monitoring speakers are connected to the mixer/computer. So this program is concluded by asking a participant to sing and then show the participants how the sound is traveling, how it is being controlled through the mixer, and then how it being recorded on to the computer.
We take the participants to a hall, where each group is given a computer with the Audacity set up files and the LAME encoder downloaded. We then set up a projection where one of the trainers is showing how to install Audacity, and then place the LAME files in to the Audacity folder. After each of the participants has figured out installation, we then start by showing how to open new files, how to open sound files even though other files are already open. We then show them how to zoom in and zoom out, cut out sections, copy and paste sections, fade in and fade out and how to control levels. The Audacity manual on their website is good for reference. A copy is available here
We then usually reserve a day where participants can try out recording through field recorder and in the studio, and try editing their own programs. We do a group discussion at the end of the day where we hear the programs, discuss commonly made mistakes and give out pointers on how they can be rectified.
We usually end the session by taking feedback from the participants about flow of sessions, content of training material, their understanding of our training, the duration of the training, the training facilities, what was left out in the modules, and so on. A good feedback form is available for training modules on the Multi Media Training Kit from Itrainonline.org. It can be accessed here